The eligibility criteria for a Government hospitality and leisure grant means clubs have been unable to take advantage of Covid support... Golf courses around England are unable to take advantage of a Government grant aimed at financially supporting businesses impacted by the Omicron variant of Coronavirus. The Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in December, offered those in the sector one-off grants of up to £6,000 as part of a £700 million package delivered to local councils. It was designed to shore up firms, many of whom the Government website gov.uk say have seen a “decline in footfall and increased cancellations due to the Omicron variant”. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said at the time: “I urge businesses to come forward, engage with their local council and tap into these cash grants, which will help to cover costs and protect jobs as we double down on our efforts to get boosted and defeat this virus.” Like many businesses in the leisure and hospitality industry, many golf clubs will have suffered from cancellations and shaky consumer confidence because of uncertainty over the severity of the variant and restrictions imposed by Plan B regulations. But some courses have been informed by councils they are specifically excluded from the grant – along with the likes of takeaways, dance and fitness studios, sports centre and clubs and retail outlets. One, whose application was rejected and has asked not to be named, was told golf courses did not come under the qualifying criteria for the grant and that the Government had confirmed golf could not be classed as “leisure for eligibility”. Government guidance, which can be found on gov.uk and was issued to local authorities, states that: “Businesses will only be eligible where their main service falls within hospitality, leisure or accommodation. “If a business operates services that could be considered hospitality or leisure, and also falls into another category, the main service can be determined by assessing which category constitutes 50% or more of their overall funding. The main service principle will determine whether a business receives funding.” A separate guidance note states the grant is to support businesses in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors that "offer in-person services" and "where the main service and activity takes place in a fixed rate-paying premises". Local government websites have also explained the principle with one, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, saying: “The qualifying criteria for the hospitality and leisure grant due to Omicron is different to previous grant schemes, and the award of a previous grant doesn't guarantee an award under this scheme. “Examples of types of business that won't qualify for this grant include: fast-food takeaways, hairdressers, beauticians, tattoo parlours, gyms, sport businesses where physical exercise or training is conducted on an individual basis - which includes dance and fitness studios, sports centres and clubs, sports courts, swimming pools and golf courses.” It's a message that's been replicated on council websites across the nation. The club whose application was rejected was told by their local authority that if golf...
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